Skip to content
  • Audio
  • 5 mins
  • Level 1: Introductory

Evan Davis on... customer satisfaction

Updated Friday 25th September 2009

The Bottom Line's Evan Davis rationalises customer satisfaction and why some products will always fall short of expectations

Watch

Listen

Copyright The Open University

Read

There’s a rule in business about customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction depends on the quality of service they get. But it also depends on the expectations they start with, and the rule goes something like satisfaction equals service quality minus expectations. You can have disappointed customers with wonderful products if the product still isn’t quite as good as was expected, so managing expectations is a key function of business, just as delivering good service is a key function of business.

Now here’s a problem, a really ubiquitous problem in business. It comes up in life, it particularly comes up in politics, and it comes around managing expectations. A lot of the time in life, we’re trying to sell ourselves, we’re trying to raise people’s expectations of us in order that they’ll pick us rather than one of the other competitors whom we’re fighting against. At the same time, if you manage expectations up by selling yourself, you then face the likelihood that you will disappoint people thereafter because you’ll fail to live up to the expectations that you’ve built up.

Now, as a theory, the political process, this has a lot of appeal doesn’t it, that essentially politicians are constantly trying to sell themselves to us by overrating themselves and hyping up their own ability to deliver things, and then what happens is, having won the election, they can never live up to their promises and we always end up sceptical, always end up complaining about politicians and their promises. But it applies ubiquitously, it applies in business too.

Now, I’m not sure there’s a solution to this dilemma, overselling yourself to get the deal, underdelivering the service because you can’t live up to the expectations you’ve set and established. Perhaps the solution is the long term reputation. If you’re in it for once, and you’re only in it playing it for the short-term, then you just sell yourself as high as you possibly can and don’t worry about the fact that you leave everybody disappointed.

If you’re in it for the long term, you probably can’t afford to oversell yourself, you just have to deliver it as it is, and if that means losing a few contracts initially, so be it, tell them as it is, take the penalty in the fact that you won’t win the business, but then you develop a reputation for delivering what you promised, and in the long term that probably pays some sorts of dividends. It’s like an investment; you’re investing in your reputation, sacrificing in the short term and taking the benefit in the long term. That’s the solution, the only solution I can think of.

That’s my view. You can join the debate with the Open University.

More from Evan Davis

Find out more

 

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?

Other content you may like

The Bottom Line Expert Opinion: Customer Service Creative commons image Icon Richard, via Flickr under Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0 license article icon

Money & Business 

The Bottom Line Expert Opinion: Customer Service

Is a consumer focus appropriate for all business - public as well as private? Peter Bloom discusses customer service in the contemporary age.

Article
Customer Service: Expert's Corner with Professor Sally Dibb Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Sally Dibb article icon

Money & Business 

Customer Service: Expert's Corner with Professor Sally Dibb

Professor Sally Dibb answers questions on customer service in business, including how globalisation affects brands and why is customer relationship management so important?

Article
Leslie Budd on... hedge funds Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Used with permission audio icon

Money & Business 

Leslie Budd on... hedge funds

How does a football manager of a World Cup team decide when to play their best players? Leslie Budd looks at long-term and short-term investments.

Audio
5 mins
David Skyrme's story Creative commons image Icon Lo Verde / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 under Creative-Commons license article icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

David Skyrme's story

Explore the personal side of climate change with David Skyrme's diary entry.

Article
Evan Davis on... customers Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Thinkstock audio icon

Money & Business 

Evan Davis on... customers

Evan unpicks the old adage 'The customer is always right'

Audio
5 mins
article icon

Money & Business 

Is planning the new mantra of business?

In the light of the recent global recession, Leslie Budd looks at the need for businesses to plan for the long term.

Article
Evan Davis on... the future of advertising Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: photos.com video icon

Money & Business 

Evan Davis on... the future of advertising

The Bottom Line presenter Evan Davis wonders what shape sales messages might take in the future of advertising.

Video
5 mins
article icon

Money & Business 

How do you cut costs in a recession?

Some suggestions from Peter Walton on how to cut costs in a recession

Article
Online retailers that have made their mark Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Yuri Arcurs | Dreamstime.com article icon

Money & Business 

Online retailers that have made their mark

Profiles of four high street retailers who each blazed a trail online.

Article